The mammalian gastrointestinal tract hosts a diverse community of microbes including bacteria, fungi, protozoa, helminths, and viruses. Through coevolution, mammals and these microbes have developed a symbiosis that is sustained through the host’s continuous sensing of microbial factors and the generation of a tolerant or pro-inflammatory response. While analyzing T cell–driven colitis in nonlittermate mouse strains, we serendipitously identified that a nongenetic transmissible factor dramatically increased disease susceptibility. We identified the protozoan Tritrichomonas muris as the disease-exacerbating element. Furthermore, experimental colonization with T. muris induced an elevated Th1 response in the cecum of naive wild-type mice and accelerated colitis in Rag1−/− mice after T cell transfer. Overall, we describe a novel cross-kingdom interaction within the murine gut that alters immune cell homeostasis and disease susceptibility. This example of unpredicted microbial priming of the immune response highlights the importance of studying trans-kingdom interactions and serves as a stark reminder of the importance of using littermate controls in all mouse research.
- Submitted: 21 October 2016
- Revision received 4 November 2016
- Accepted: 7 November 2016
This article is distributed under the terms of an Attribution–Noncommercial–Share Alike–No Mirror Sites license for the first six months after the publication date (see http://www.rupress.org/terms). After six months it is available under a Creative Commons License (Attribution–Noncommercial–Share Alike 3.0 Unported license, as described at http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/3.0/).